Remember a couple of months ago when the Most Wrong People in American public life–Conservative QANON Christians and “prolife” MAGA cult of death suckers–were telling everybody that you absolutely had to go see SOUND OF FREEDOM and praise it to the skies as the Most Important Film of Our Time, as well as lionizing its subject Tim Ballard as a hero or you were a moral monster who supported child trafficking?
Remember when this perfectly absurd lie–suggesting that The Media want children kidnapped and sexually exploited if somebody didn’t care for a movie or warned that its subject was a grifter–was spread abroad by the Greatest Christians of All Time, heedless of the command to not bear false witness against their neighbor?
Cuz I remember.
From our “When the Cult Accuses They are Always Confessing” File:
Files from a joint local and federal criminal investigation released to VICE News describe video evidence of the incident, which took place in Mexico on an Operation Underground Railroad mission.
And from our “Real anti-traffickers told you it was a grift but you were so busy posing as Saviors for seeing a movie that you didn’t listen” file:
[A] spokesperson for the church tells VICE News that while the apostle in question, President M. Russell Ballard, was once close to Tim Ballard—to whom he is not related, despite their sharing a last name—the OUR founder “betrayed their friendship, through the unauthorized use of President Ballard’s name for Tim Ballard’s personal advantage and activity regarded as morally unacceptable.”
Elder Ballard’s relationship with Tim Ballard is, the church spokesperson told VICE News, “in the past.” They did not specify what activity was regarded as morally unacceptable. Tim Ballard did not respond to a detailed request for comment; OUR provided a statement which is reproduced in full below.
The unusually public denunciation of Tim Ballard is particularly newsworthy at this moment. He left OUR earlier this year following an internal investigation into employee complaints about his conduct at virtually the same moment that Sound of Freedom, a fictionalized version of his purported child-rescuing exploits, became a surprise box office hit. He has since begun promoting a new anti-trafficking organization, the SPEAR Fund.
But he is also said by many Utah insiders to be weighing a run for Senate—speculation that was given more weight by a recent statement from Sean Reyes, the Utah attorney general, who’s also a longtime friend and supporter. (Reyes wrote that he would not be running for Senate, allowing “an opportunity for a dear friend of mine who is a great conservative, patriot, and warrior to run and serve as the next Senator from Utah.” Reyes said that person would announce their run in the coming days.)
The documents, obtained by VICE News through a public-records request, are from a now-closed criminal investigation into OUR conducted jointly by a Utah county attorney and the FBI. Several people, according to the documents, described exceptionally close ties between the two Ballards. Elder Ballard, who is in his 90s, is the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, an extremely senior position within the church, and is viewed by faithful Mormons as a profound spiritual and moral authority. People familiar with OUR’s operations have previously told VICE News that Tim Ballard has sometimes claimed that Elder Ballard personally urged him to quit his previous job at Homeland Security Investigations to found OUR.
The ties between Tim Ballard and Elder Ballard described in the documents are numerous and occasionally bizarre, involving claimed business arrangements, blessings, and even a psychic who claimed to be able to communicate with the prophet Nephi, who according to the Book of Mormon has been dead for thousands of years. Allegations from a former OUR higher-up as well as text messages contained in the documents obtained by VICE News suggest that Tim Ballard and an associate represented Elder Ballard as a partner in a for-profit business called Slave Stealers, which was pitched as a way to control OUR and other non-profits. It was apparently viewed as part of a scheme that would allow Tim Ballard to monetize the notoriety he gained through his often exaggerated exploits.
Tim Ballard also claimed, according to the documents, that Elder Ballard maintained close contact with him during at least one disastrous overseas mission, which was based on information obtained by the psychic medium and aimed at rescuing a missing child. Ballard said the Mormon elder blessed him and his wife Katherine beforehand and received real-time updates from on the ground.
In response to a detailed request for comment on these matters, a spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a statement, which reads [in part]:
President Ballard and Tim Ballard (no relation) established a friendship a number of years ago. That friendship was built on a shared interest in looking after God’s children wherever they are and without regard to their circumstance. However, that relationship is in the past. For many months, President Ballard has had no contact with the founder of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR). The nature of that relationship was always in support of vulnerable children being abused, trafficked, and otherwise neglected. Once it became clear Tim Ballard had betrayed their friendship, through the unauthorized use of President Ballard’s name for Tim Ballard’s personal advantage and activity regarded as morally unacceptable, President Ballard withdrew his association. President Ballard never authorized his name, or the name of the Church, to be used for Tim’s personal or financial interests.
In addition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints never endorsed, supported or represented OUR, Tim Ballard or any projects associated with them.
The moral to take away from this is not “If you can’t even trust people fighting human trafficking then who can you trust?” It is rather, “When real human trafficking opponents warn you of a wolf in sheep’s clothing while conservative MAGA antichrist religion cultists who have been so wrong about so much so many times for so long have yet another Panic du Jour and get stampeded for the umpteenth time, consider at long last the thought, “Why do I still trust this massively unreliable subculture?” and walk away from it forever. The actual gospel is still there, in union with Peter and open to the the reliable guidance of experts, Normals, and people with integrity instead of grifters and QANON kooks.